The battles of Stalingrad was revolving major in the Second world war from its significance and its nature:
It marks the beginning of the uninterrupted retirement of the German army in Eastern Europe until the final defeat in 1945 with the conquest of Berlin by the Red Army.
- It is regarded as the bloodiest battle of the history.
- One remembers it for the intensity its urban combat.
If the defeat of the Wehrmacht in front of Moscow in 1941 is revolving the geopolitics of the Second world war, the Soviet victory of Stalingrad unquestionably constitutes the psychological turning of it. The battle of Stalingrad was marked by the brutality and the lack of taking into account of the civil losses. Contrary to “traditional” the seat, it mainly consisted of urban combat in this city of the south of the Russia (called nowadays Volgograd) carried out by the German and their allies. The battle includes the German seat of the Soviet city, the battle inside the city and the Soviet counter-offensive. The total number of deaths is estimated between 1 and 2 million people (between 4500 and 9000 died per day!).
The capitulation of the German troops on February 2nd, 1943 in front of the Soviet forces is regarded as the beginning of the end of the forces of the Axe, which lost a quarter of their armies there and the initiative on the face is; “the hope changed camp, the combat of heart”.
This battle was however described in a way squeaking by the chronicler Delfeil de Ton:
Stalingrad: bolt on the road of the Caucasus and symbol city
June 22nd, 1941, the Germany and its allies of the Axe invaded the Soviet Union, advancing quickly and deeply in the enemy territory. After sufferhaving suffered much during the summer and the autumn 1941, the Soviet forces counter-attacked at the time of the Bataille of Moscow in December 1941. The exhausted German forces, badly equipped for a winter war and with supplies pushed to the maximum of their capacities, were stopped if not pushed back in their projection towards the capital.
The Germans stabilized their projection in spring 1942. Plans to launch another offensive against Moscow were rejected, because the troops had been strongly weakened. German military philosophy wanting that in the hope of fast profits the attack is done where that is the least foreseeable, an attack on Moscow would have been perceived like too obvious by some, and in particular Adolf Hitler. The High command German knew that time played against them, because the the United States had just entered in war after the Attaque on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Hitler wanted to thus finish the combat on the face of the east before the United States could imply itself front in the war in Europe.
For all these reasons, new offensives towards north and the south were considered. An opening in the south would have made safe the the Caucasus rich in Pétrole, as well as the river the Volga, a very important way of Soviet transport in Central Asia. This territory included/understood also heavy industries as the factory of tractors converted with the production of tanks T-34, the arms factory Barrikady, as well as the metallurgical complex “red October”. A German victory in the south of the Soviet Union would severely have damaged the machine of war of Stalin as well as the economy of the country, while allowing the capture of the vast agricultural fields of this area.
The name of the city referring to the Soviet leader, it took on a very particular interest symbolic system for the two camps: its capture would have been, for propaganda Nazi, a victory that Stalin could not be allowed to accept.
These elements contributed to make this battle a point of crystallization of the two armies which threw all there their forces. It was an all-out war, an ideological, economic war and soldier who mobilized the two very whole countries.
The Braunschweig operationThe “Braunschweig operation”, starting from the July 23rd 1942 is dominating in the German failure. Whereas it was envisaged at the time of “Blau” that a strong grouping including/understanding the 6th Army and especially 4th Panzerarmee, covered on the Don by the ARMIR (Armata Italiana in Russia), the Hungarians and the Roumanians, plus the 2nd Army with height of Voronej were to sink in the outer loop of the Gift and the Gift-Volga corridor, the operation “Braunschweig” diverts 4th Panzerarmee (makes the of them. Panzerkorps reinforced) towards the the Caucasus, by leaving with only the 6th Army (also reinforced) the care to conquer the outer loop of the Gift and Stalingrad.
This change has two disastrous consequences:
- the 6th Army is not enough any more strong to only operate, in a decisive way, in the outer loop of the Gift. That implies a stiffening of Soviet resistance vis-a-vis the weakening of the German forces of attack of the sector, therefore a deceleration of the progression towards Stalingrad prejudicial to its fast conquest.
- 4th Panzerarmee, by joining the 1e Panzerarmee and the 17th Army in their progression towards the Caucasus, causes an unexpected and catastrophic effect: it completely bottles the logistic ways of Heeresgruppe has and slows down also the progression, without same capacity to enter on line!
Thus, mid-August 1942, 4th Panzerarmee is reorientated towards the North-East, towards Stalingrad. Three weeks were thus lost without notable profit on the face of the Caucasus and with negative effects in the outer loop of the Gift.
Involved forcesIn November 1942, the Wehrmacht had deployed, under the command of Friedrich Paulus, the armed Life, composed of:
IVe Army corps
- 29e division of motorized infantry
- 397e division of infantry
- 361e division of infantry
VIIIe Army corps
- 76e division of infantry
- 113e division of infantry
XIe Army corps
- 44e division of infantry
- 375e division of infantry
- 384e division of infantry
XIVe Army corps
- the 3rd division of motorized infantry
- 60e division of motorized infantry
- the 16th armor-plated division
Bind Army corps
- 71e division of infantry
- 49e division of infantry
- 94e division of infantry
- 100e division of hunters
- 295e division of infantry
- 305e division of infantry
- 389e division of infantry
- the 14th division armor-plated
- 24e armor-plated division
- IVe air fleet
- IXe div. DA (troops on the ground)
VIIIe air Body
Sappers 5th organization (troops under the ground)
Towards a rough battleStalin prohibits the evacuation of the civilians of the city, thinking that their presence would encourage a greater resistance of the defenders. Civilians, including/understanding the women and the children, were put at work to improve the protective fortifications and to continue to work until the end in the factories of tractors converted into factories of tanks.
A massive German air raid, the August 23rd, caused a true storm of fire, killing out of the thousands of civilians and transforming Stalingrad into a vast landscape of rubble and ruins on fire. 80% of the livable space of the city had been destroyed.
Initial engagement for the defense of the city fell on the 1077e anti-aircraft regiment, a unit made up mainly of voluntary young women without any formation on the targets beginning on the ground. In spite of this, and without the support provided by other Soviet units, the anti-aircraft gunners remained at their stations and fought the projection of the panzers. The 16th division of Panzer had to fight them until each of the 37 anti-aircraft batteries was destroyed.
Towards the end of August, the German troops reached the Volga in the north of Stalingrad. Another projection towards the river in the south of the city followed. The Soviet combatants thus were encircled in the city, were leant in the Volga, in spite of various means implemented to circulate on the river.
In the initial phase, Soviet defense was based primarily on “working militia” made up of workmen indirectly implied in the production of war. The tanks continued to be produced and equipped by teams with voluntary factory workers. The machines were directly led factory to the frontline without same to be painted.
The city reaches soon a state of destruction quasi-total, under the fire of the German bombardments. The civilians deserted the city. Among the remains, the Soviet armed 62e formed lines of defense, with strong points located in the houses and the factories. The combat in the city was done wild and desperate. The Order n°227 of Stalin, known under the slogan “Not a step behind! ”, dated July 28th, 1942 issued that all those which fled or moved back their positions without orders could be summarily shot down. But Soviet did not need really this propaganda to include/understand the stake of this battle and to fight heroically. The Germans pushing ahead in Stalingrad thus suffered heavily. Soviet reinforcements were embarked through the Volga river of Eastern bank under the constant bombardment of artillery and the Stukas. The life expectancy of a Soviet soldier lately made in the city fell with less than twenty-four hours.
The German military doctrines were based on the principle of the teams of combined weapons implying a close cooperation of the infantry, genius and artillery with air support. To avoid this, the Soviet commanders adopted a simple technique: to always keep the frontlines with nearest. This exposed the German infantry to the danger of their own fire of support, obliging to limit the use of it.
Stagnation and bloody street battles
The combat made rage for each street, each factory, each house, each basement and each staircase. The Germans call this invisible urban war Rattenkrieg (“war of rats”) and a squeaking joke was spread on this subject: “Once the captured kitchen, one always fights for the living room”…
The Soviet soldiers fought in a half-sleep, because they slept seldom more than three hours of sharp: their nights were intersected with alarms, attacks, counter-attacks… Soviet and the Germans mitraillaient themselves unceasingly with the aveuglette, in addition to the ceaseless bombardments, to irritate the adversary. It was necessary to carry out recognitions of night, while crawling in the debris, in order to carry out night surprise attacks, which terrified the Germans. The contact with the back was frequently cut, in particular with the state major, was installed on the other side of the Volga. The headquarters were installed with goes-quickly in the basements (only remaining shelters), but were quickly destroyed. A simple house could be regarded as a " position stratégique".
On the Kourgane of Mamaev, a 102 meters height hill, the combat were particularly pitiless. The stake was crucial for Wehrmacht which wanted to install artillery with an aim of destroying all the boats sailing on the the Volga. The hill changed hands several times and the Germans never could install their heavy artillery. During a Soviet counter-attack to take again Kourgane de Mamaev, the Soviets lost a whole division of 10 000 men in one day. With the Ascenseur with grain , an enormous complex treating the grain dominated by an enormous silo, the combat if was brought closer that the Soviet and German soldiers could according to testimonys intend themselves to breathe. In another part of the city, a building defended by a Soviet group under the command of Yakov Pavlov was transformed into impenetrable fortress, after being itself made cut remainder of the forces by a German attack. The building, called the “House of Pavlov later”, monitored a place in the center of the city. The soldiers surrounded it with minefields, nests of Mitrailleuse S with the windows and broke partitions to improve the communication. They held more than 27 days, which perhaps will be used as example in the intensity of engagement.
The Germans transferred heavy artillery inside the city, including several enormous mortars of 600 Misters the Soviet artillery on the Eastern bank of the the Volga continued to bombard the German positions. The Soviet defenders used the ruins as defensive position advisedly, while going up inter alia traps (for example of the turrets of tanks positioned statically in the ruins). The German tanks became useless in the remains heaps which can go up to eight meters in height. If they could advance, they were taken under Soviet anti-tank fire coming from the roofs.
These conditions slowed down the German progression.
For Stalin and Hitler, the battle of Stalingrad became a question of life and death. The Soviet command moved the strategic troops of reserve of the Red Army with Moscow towards the the Volga and transferred all aviation available from the whole country to Stalingrad. The pressures on the two military commanders were immense: Paulus developed an unverifiable tic in its eye and Tchouikov tested a demonstration of eczema which required to bandage its hands completely to him.
In November, after three months of carnage and in advance slow and expensive, the Germans finally reached banks of the river, capturing 90% of the ruined city and cutting the remaining Soviet forces in two narrow pockets.
The Soviet counter-attackIn autumn, the Soviet general Georgi Konstantinovich Joukov responsible for strategic planning in the area of Stalingrad, concentrated the Soviet forces in the steppes in the north and the south of the city. The German northern side was particularly vulnerable, since it was defended by the Hungarian and Rumanian units whose equipment was lower and the moral one low. The plan of Joukov was to maintain the Germans towards the south in the city, to pass through the broad slightly defended German sides and to surround the Germans inside Stalingrad. This operation whose code name was Uranus was launched on November 19th, 1942, at the same time as the operation " Mars" who it was directed towards the center.
The Soviet units attacked under the command of the General Nikolai Vatoutine. They were made up of three complete armies, 1st of the Guard, the 5th Tank regiment of attacks and the 21e Armée, including a total of eighteen divisions of infantry, of eight brigades of tanks, two motorized brigades, six divisions of cavalry and a brigade anti-tank device. The Rumanian troops continued to require reinforcements without result. Too much drawn aside, exceeded of number and badly equipped, the 3rd Rumanian Army, which held the northern side of the 6th German army, was broken after a one day defense quasi-miraculous.
The November 22nd, the two grips of the clipper met with Kalach, finishing the surrounding of Stalingrad.
Insulation of the German forces and orders suicidal
Crossed their backs by the encircling movement operated by the Soviets, the German forces could not count any more but on themselves. A little later the loss of the aerodromes of Tatzinskaïa and Morozovskaïa still worsened the situation. German aviation is lived indeed in impossibility of organizing an effective airlift and thus of providing vivres, ammunition and men. This, cumulated with the pressure exerted by the Red Army, made the situation intolerable.
Armor-plated divisions, ordered by Von Manstein, that the command of Wehrmacht had sent to break the surrounding of Paulus was stopped and pushed back by the Red Army, the more so as Paulus refused to obey the orders and to try an exit. This failure sealed the fate of the besieged troops. Hitler however granted Paulus the title of marshal, to encourage his men to defend it until - beyond theirs courage, no member elect of this high distinction not having been captured before. Hitler justified this sacrifice by explaining why these troops made it possible to fix seven Russian armies what left him the free field to tackle another sector that of Stalingrad. The soldiers of the armed Life were imperatively to die in the combat, the more so as the conditions of captivity which awaited the survivors were atrocious, because the Soviets dedicated a major hatred with the occupant Nazi, who had made himself guilty of pitiless massacres of population at the time of his progression.
85.000 of the 91.000 prisoners succumbed, less because of ill treatments that because of the general weakening of their organization, because of their cold prolonged exposure and of the deprivations undergone during this last desperate combat.
The troops of the RKKA ( Robotche Krestianskaïa Krasnaïa Armïa - the Red Army with the workmen and peasants) carried out the parcelling out of the unfavourable units then while cutting the southern sector of Stalingrad of the northern sector. The discovery by the Soviets of Paulus and its staff, hidden in a cellar, accelerated the capitulation of the German forces which took place on January 31st, 1943 for the southern sector and the February 2nd 1943 for the northern sector. Paulus personally gave to its troops the order to go.
ConsequencesAlthough the general Paulus held, a time, the nine tenth of the city, the forces of the Axis were impotent vis-a-vis the extraordinary moral fiber of the Soviets and with their tactic of surrounding. Besides the latter is inspired perhaps by that used at the 13th century by the Russo-vareg prince Alexandre Nevski, whose exploit vis-a-vis the teutonic knights, carried with the screen by Sergueï Eisenstein in 1938, had been, on order of Stalin and to ensure antigermanic Propagande, diffused very largely in the USSR after the rupture of the Pacte germano-Soviet.
The battle of Stalingrad is an major event of the 2nd World war, because it marks the turning of the war: for the Germans, up to that point almost unconquered (except in North Africa), it is the beginning of the end.
This glimmer of hope to most extremely of the war deeply marked the populations of Europe and contributed to Soviet prestige the shortly after the war. To the Release, for the majority of the French, the Soviet counter-attack which followed the victory of Stalingrad contributed as much to the European Release than the Anglo-American unloading in Normandy. Today, the memory of Stalingrad is erased in front of that of the unloading because of collapse of the USSR and the pejorative connotation of the name " Staline". Nevertheless, many the " Stalingrad" avenues; just as the Parisian subway station homonym are well a proof of the psychological impact of this battle, and not the mark of one attachment to the Stalinist ideology.
Conditions of combatThe conditions under which the combatants of the two camps have took share with the battle were particularly extreme.
For the Soviets encircled in Stalingrad, the tactical main difficulty was the obstacle consisted the the Volga, making perilous the crossings to supply the troops. In many points, the German army could reach in direct shooting, with the machine-gun or the gun, the heteroclite convoys of boats operating the junction. A big number of soldiers arriving in reinforcement were thus killed during the crossing. This one was made even more difficult at the time of the first ices in November.
The Soviet headquarters on Western bank were dangerously close to the engagements. On at least an occasion, the close guard of Vassili Tchouikov, ordering armed 62e, had to fight vis-a-vis an attack of the Germans. With most extremely of the German projection, the Soviet heads of bridges on Western bank were deep only of a few hundred meters, obliging the Katioucha S to move back until the last end of the bank to draw on the first German lines.
It is in Stalingrad that one saw emerging the big role of a new type of combatant, named thereafter the Franc-tireur, of which " Zikan" , an unknown gunner, which killed 224 Germans and Vasily Zaitsev, Siberian shepherd who counted with his credit 225 killed at the time of the battle. They are marksman (or Sniper S) which discreetly aims their victims at long distance, and kill them or wound them rather seriously so that his/her comrades try to help it and thus expose themselves. Such combatants were set up as hero by Soviet propaganda during the battle. This climate of permanent fear contributed to sap moral combatants of the Axis.
The extreme hardness of the engagements encouraged the majority of the Russian combatants to consume important quantities of vodka. Each unit having to receive a ration per soldier, many commanders of units dissimulated the losses, the alive ones thus being able to divide the rations of deaths. On several occasions, Russian soldiers introduced liquid antifreeze and other chemicals containing of alcohol, which cost the life several of them.
Several thousands of civilians, primarily of the children and the old men when the factories were not any more in a position to produce, remained in the city, including with most extremely of the engagements. In addition to the constant threat to be killed by a shell or a stray bullet, the famine made devastations among this population blocked on the spot. The children, employees in the search of food because of the agility, were frequently taken for targets, by the Germans, among whom they chapardaient, or by the Russians, which regarded them as potential spies, number of children in addition accepting missions of information on behalf of the enemy, in exchange of some vivres.
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